How To Create Disk Images & Mount Them On A Virtual Drive [Windows]

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free disk image softwareOne of my acquaintances, who has just got his first personal computer, has a weird new hobby – buying and copying CDs and DVDs (music, applications, movies) to his laptop’s hard drive. His reason is that he wants to put his collection all in one place, and he has plenty of storage space to spare. But being a first time computer user, he used a bit of a strange way of doing it. He copied everything inside the discs and pasted them onto the hard drive.

The results were various. Some of the copy-paste attempts were successful while others failed. When he asked me for a solution, I told him that simply copying the contents might not work for some discs. A better way would be to record them as disk images and then mount them using a virtual drive.

Why Would Anybody Want To Create A Disk Image?

The first time I met the concept of a disk image was in the late 90’s when I unsuccessfully tried to play a computer game without the CD. Back in those days, many software makers required that the installation/data CD’s were to be present in the tray before the application could run. If you used many applications and each one of them required several CD’s, repeatedly inserting and changing those CD’s could become very annoying. It would be much better if users transformed those CD’s into disk images and mount them using virtual drives.

Another advantage of using a combination of disk images and virtual drives is the number of virtual drives you can use. While normal computer users would never install 20 optical disc drives on their CPU, anybody can easily set up 20 virtual drives on their system.

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Then there’s the performance issue. Running mounted disk images is faster and less resource hungry than letting the system read everything from the physical disc. This method also means a longer battery life for mobile computer users. Converting physical discs into disk images also means that you can use the discs virtually from any computer that doesn’t have an optical drive such as small netbooks.

Last but not least, after copying the discs as images, you can safely store them away and prolong their lifetime.

Creating Disk Images

Even though there are downloadable disk images on the web (Ubuntu Installer being one of them), the most common way to acquire disk images is by converting the real CDs with the help of disk imaging application. Most CD/DVD burner apps can accomplish the task, but one of the simplest free disk image software solutions that I found is ISO Recorder. This app will give you right-click access to create images.

  • Downloading the tiny installer (less than 800KB) and installing the app will set you back only a few seconds.

disk image software

  • After that, creating disk images is as simple as right clicking on the inserted real disc and choosing “Create image from CD/DVD“.

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  • The next step is to choose the location to save the images.

how to create disk image

  • The app will replicate the disc. The process could take some time, depending on the size of the disc and the speed of your system.

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  • After the operation is completed, click the “Finish” button to exit ISO Recorder.

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  • Repeat the process to create more disk images.

Adding Virtual Drives

To mount disk images, you’ll need to add/create virtual drives using virtual drive tools. One of the easiest tools you can try is Virtual Clone Drive.

  • During the setup, you can associate several disk image formats to be automatically opened with Virtual Clone Drive.

01a VCD Setup

  • The app will act as if it is installing a new hardware, so your computer will ask for your confirmation whether or not you want to continue with the installation.

01b VCD Installing V HArdware

  • After installation, the app will quietly reside in the System Tray.

02a VCD SysTray

  • Clicking on it will open the “Settings” window. There are several things you can customize here, but I think the most important one is the option to set up how many virtual drives you want to add to your system.

01b VCD Settings

  • After that, mounting the disk images to one of the available virtual drives is only a matter of right clicking on the disk images and choosing “Mount“.

free disk image software

Using a combination of disk images and virtual drives, you can create as many images as you want (provided you still have room on your hard drive), mount as many images as you need, and keep them open all the time if you want to.

Obviously, the two free disk image software tools mentioned above are not the only available options. There are many other alternatives you could try, including a couple that Tim recently highlighted. What are the disk imaging and/or virtual drive tools of your choice?  Please share them using the comments section below.

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Comments (9)
  • Navi

    Thanks for this simple & to the point article – fantastic style!
    I followed the instructions & was able to successfully create an ISO image & mount it on a virtual drive on my laptop using the suggested apps. The program which I had previously run only off the optical disc-drive now runs perfectly from the ISO image on the virtual-drive, as if I was accessing it from a CD ROM. I’ve now stored the original CD safely away . No more noisy optical drive sounds & much faster execution.
    Thanks once again for this article.

  • Kyran61

    As a netbook user, I am wondering if I can use the app on a desktop (external hard drive), create virtual drives as needed, and then connect the hard drive and copy them to my netbook? Or should I buy an external DVD/CD player for the netbook and do the process on the netbook? If there is any help, I sincerely appreciate it!

  • Anonymous

    Another very simple tool to mount iso images is WinCDemu. It doesn’t need to stay in system tray. Whenever you need to mount (open) an iso image, just double click the iso file – a dialog box will appear for mounting the image on any available drive letter.

    Question: Can ISO-Recorder make images of copyrighted CDs or DVD’s ?

    • Anonymous

      Did you mean “protected” CDs or DVDs? I’ve never encountered any problem in creating disc images, but I think it will depend on what kind of protection the disc has. Read also the input from Duckeenie above.

  • ahaider7

    Another very simple tool to mount iso images is WinCDemu. It doesn’t need to stay in system tray. Whenever you need to mount (open) an iso image, just double click the iso file – a dialog box will appear for mounting the image on any available drive letter.

    Question: Can ISO-Recorder make images of copyrighted CDs or DVD’s ?

  • jasray

    Isn’t there a potential problem with this method–no hidden files/locked files can be copied? Don’t know, but I remember a time we tried it with some program and never achieved success.

    • Anonymous

      So far, I’ve encounter no problem with the method. I always assume that imaging a disc would always create an exact copy.

    • Duckeenie

      Some DRM methods work by creating sectors that can’t be read by your drive, you are however much more likely to come across this with games rather than other software to be honest.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the input.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.